Friday, May 16, 2008

...the needed "conversation" with a pomo culture

Pragmatism is a four letter word.

You may be living under the delusion that
because you think your city has more dogs than Christians;
is one of the least churched in America; and is spiritually darker
than any other place in our country (yeah right); that you have to
grunge up God, to preach about God. Not true grasshopper.
The sinful nature of man has not changed; the character of
the gospel has not changed; the person of our
Lord Jesus Christ has not changed.
Don't be a spiritual game show host playing with the truth.
You wanna have a "conversation" that matters?
Then spend less time contextualizing the truths of

Jesus and more time proclaiming them.
When the pulpit becomes a place of holiness and reverence,
the pews and the pedestrians will really be changed for eternity.
It's not your gimmicks, tricks, methods, and techniques that affect lives;
it is His gospel, by His grace, to His glory that only matters.
It's not about us; it's all about Him.

Think biblically/not culturally.

"What Is needed today is a Scriptural setting forth of the character of God-His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His Inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity.

What Is needed today is
a Scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man-his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is "condemned already" and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him.

What is needed today is
a Scriptural setting forth of the alarming danger in which sinners are-the Indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course they shall most certainly suffer the due reward of their iniquities.

What is needed today is
a Scriptural setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost-the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the unendurableness of it, the endlessness of it. It is because of these convictions that by pen as well as by voice we are seeking to sound the alarm." -A.W. PINK

cf, Romans 3:10-18; Romans 3:19-20; Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 4:1-3; Titus 3:1-8


loren said...

Hi Steve,

Actually, what is needed today is a renewed focus on Jesus Christ, which, I'm sorry to see, did not make Mr. Pink's list.

Since the needed conversation is highly doctrinal in nature, I'm assuming that it refers to post-modern Christians, (a.k.a. the 'emerging church'). Sorry if that's a mistaken assumption, but if you'll allow me, here's what I think on that subject:

I'm not a part of the emerging church but I know a lot of folks who are, and I'm on good conversant terms with most of them. If we're really going to have a useful conversation it will need to take place in terms of a relationship with Jesus, and they'll have to see those other truths in light of our abiding in Him. This is the sort of language they'll respond to. I have seldom had a problem reaching agreement with them when we've discussed doctrinal issues on those terms (Eph 4:13).

When I recently heard that a book was coming out against the emerging church movement, I urged my friends to announce, in advance, that they would gladly sit down and talk about the issues that were raised in the book. Their problem is not that they're unwilling to do this, it's that it's hard for them to identify who their leaders are, who would take part in that conversation. The movement is too diverse for that.

On our side, I think most Christians do not understand them as well as they think, and maybe even feel a little threatened by their enthusiasm, which does sometimes assume an adversarial air. (I've done my best to reprimand them when I've seen this attitude.)

Now that some books and articles are coming out, I'm afraid that other Christians may begin to view them as 'ammo', and to assume their own adversarial air. One must speak the truth in love, as the truth is in Christ, to resolve doctrinal differences (Eph 4:13-15). And each must understand of the other, that the Lord has received them.

The sub-title to your blog, from 2 Cor 4:5, is exactly the right tone for a useful conversation of this nature. Since they don't have official leaders, blogging may actually be the most effective way to converse with them, because they're really into blogging.

Anyway, thanks for letting me share that, sorry if I got carried away.

Breuss Wane said...

Loren wrote:
>what is needed today is a renewed >focus on Jesus Christ, which, I'm >sorry to see, did not make Mr. Pink's >list.

I agree that too often Pink emphasizes the transcendental at the expense of the incarnational. However, it does not necessarily follow that Christ and what Pink states are exclusive thoughts. If Pink had been more incarnational, in his polemic against the emerging church "philosophy", he could have rightly pointed out that Christ himself is the Proclamation of the condition of natural man and his total depravity, that Christ himself *is* the alarming danger that awaits sinners, and that Christ himself is the avenger/punisher of those who died outside of him. The eternality and finality of the resurrection is not only the basis of the eternal joy that awaits believers, but also the grounds of the eternal damnation that awaits unbelievers. The Cross/Resurrection is both blessing and curse.

Campi's critique of the emerging church via Pink is dead on: read many of these so-called "unofficial" leaders for very long and it becomes apparent that judgment/curse/damnation is a category that is stealth at best and absent at worst.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Let's cut to the chase. I see in this quote a very Christ centered focus by Pink. If we will preach the 'bad news' as given to us in scripture, outlined by Pink in this quote, then we are left looking to Jesus Christ alone as our only hope of escape from eternal damnation.
Pink was reacting to a mindset that is even more prevalent in the church today where a 'relationship with Jesus' is the sole content of the Gospel proclamation. It is a 'gospel' that says, 'You're O.K., but you could be better, if you have a relationship with Jesus.'
May I never be guilty of preaching the greatness of the salvation offered by Jesus without putting it in proper perspective.
God is Holy.
We are sinners.
God condemns sinners.
Christ died for sinners.
I'm sorry but that 'other gospel' doesn't offer me much comfort.

loren said...

Wow, I really couldn’t think of a better way to illustrate my point. The premise of this posting was that a conversation is needed with the post-modern culture (which I’ve assumed to mean the ‘emerging church’). But what kind of a conversation are we talking about? In the context of the A.W. Pink quotation, it really sounds like they’re simply to be lectured. That’s a pretty one-way ‘conversation’ if you ask me.

If we’re really sincere about this, we need to ask ourselves a very basic, very fair, very practical question at this point. Why would they even agree to participate in such a conversation with us? We are asking them to bring their religious beliefs to the table which, however imperfect, are still the most precious things in their entire life. And in return we offer – what? Absolute dogmatic inflexibility (Matt 7:12).

What I have tried to tell you is that post-modern Christians are open to this discussion, if you just know how to talk to them (1 Co 9:20). The way we do this is to speak the truth in love, as the truth is in Christ (Eph 4:15,21). Now, did you guys catch the part where I made those points from the Bible? So why the argument?

In other words, talk to them in terms of Jesus and what He’s like, and what the Bible tells us about Him, and how His character is shown through His words (Luke 6:45). This personal connection resonates better with them: “Hey, put that way, God is someone I respect, whom I need to defer to . . .” (Eph 4:13). I don’t think any subject is off limits if we’ll simply use this approach. They’re open! They’re willing to re-think things in those terms! And I’ve told you that I’ve encouraged them to talk with us!

Here’s what we need to bring to the table. We need to understand that Jesus didn’t just tell us the truth, He is the truth (John 14:6). Truth itself is a reflection of who He is and the way He thinks. The more accurately our beliefs portray Jesus Himself, the truer they will be. We can not offer doctrines couched in $1000 theological terms without even mentioning Jesus – and then claim we see Him at the center of it. Can’t you see how post-modern Christians would just scratch their heads at all that? If we’re talking about Jesus, we need to say Jesus. We need to make the connection plain. And why would any Christian have a problem focusing on Jesus? Have we really come even to this?

Nor am I talking about compromise. When we focus on Jesus we find the truth of the matter, and the grounds for settling any issue (Eph 4:13-15). Compromise is when we fail to find this perspective, and settle for something anyway.

In both of the responses to my comment (above), I found another illustration of my point. The recent books and articles on the emerging church have turned into Christian ammo. I’m telling you how they’re open to a conversation with us, and asking my fellow Christians to fairly reach out to them; yet I’ve been answered with points I never made (which probably came from those articles), and told, ‘may I not be found guilty of thinking like them’. Great bridge building. I think no further comment is necessary on that.

I would like Bruce and Jeremy to know that I love them in the Lord, and that I prayed half the night for them before deciding how to answer. I’m sorry if this looks like a personal argument with them because I didn’t want that. Can you meet me somewhere on that?

One more thing. A little hmble pie. I've assumed that this arricle addresses post-modern Christians. But . . . Steve? was that your intent?

johnMark said...


Is there a place you can direct us where we can either interact or read interactions between the emergent church proponents and the rest of us? I am asking because not long ago James White addressed Michael Spencer and it was not pleasant. Nor did I see folks open to talk about the issues.

Do you have an example of the language we should use? If I said, "Oh you foolish emergent churchians. Who has bewitched you?" How would that go over? Not very well I assume.


loren said...

Hi Johnmark,

Let me get together with some of my emergent friends and see if maybe we can set up a new blog for that purpose. That sounds like a good idea. I'll try to get back to you as early as possible next week.

Breuss Wane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Breuss Wane said...

oren wrote:
>Why would they even agree to >participate in such a conversation >with us?

Good question. I'm skeptical at the "attempt" at conversation on our part precisely because 1. our presuppositions are antithetical to the presuppositions of the emergent church and 2.I do not believe their presuppositions allow for genuine conversation.

Conversation, IMHO, presupposes the setting aside of presuppositions in order to converse. Since I do not believe their presuppositions to be valid (and they mine), the conversation is less than genuine.

After all, one of Campi's staples in his concerts is this line: Christ didn't say "Go ye into all the world and relate..." The Proclamation (this is our presupposition) stands outside and above the conversation. The Proclamation is TO us, not WITH us. Christ, as *TRUTH* Himself, is outside, over, and above us before He is with us. You were right to suggest that Pink *lectures*. But even if we start with Christ, ultimately, Christ and His Proclamation, in some form *is* a lecture in that He demands we conform to His Person. It is not an offer, it is a demand (which, in and of itself, is a presupposition). The conversation must start with Christ (Van Til), but our presuppositions about Christ are not their presuppositions about Christ, nor are they compatible, IMHO.

How do I know the emergent church is not interested in this kind of truth? Because of the inability of its so-called unofficial leaders (although as of a couple of weeks ago, it has an official leader, Tony Jones, and declared itself to be an organized movement) to critique its own. Few *conservative* emergent church proponents will say they agree with McLaren on his more controversial beliefs (open theism, refusal to state that homosexuality is a sin, etc). Few conservative emergent leaders want to be lumped into his camp (ha!). Yet these same *conservative* leaders either won't public say they disagree with McLaren or they won't say to what extent they disagree with McLaren (some of his views are heretical). They can't publicly critique McLaren because their own presuppositions won't allow them to... it would be so "unemergent" to do so.

So yeah... I'm skeptical and I'm skeptical because every emergent church proponent I've read has a fundamental presupposition against absolute truth (it's caricatured as a product of the Englightenment). I'd love to have a conversation. I don't think it's possible.

And yeah... ultimately, there is dogmatic inflexibility because the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12) are presuppositionally inflexible. I'm all for flexibility... but... at the end of the discussion, because the presuppositions are antithetical to one another, those who desire flexibility will demand flexibility of that which is not flexible (which is why it's interesting to note that the tolerant seem quite intolerant of the intolerant: Carson, Groothuis, etc.)

Loren wrote:
>Now, did you guys catch the part where >I made those points from the Bible?

True. But are your points necessarily the Bible's points? Again, it's the presupposition. Ultimately, it's not a question of quoting from the Bible, but whose hermeneutic is most accurately reflected in the text. So far, I haven't seen anything from McLaren, Sweet, Kimball, Jones, Grenz, Webber, etc. which would suggest that their viewpoint *about* the Bible is accurately reflected *in* or *from* the Bible. But then, we have differing (and dare I say in some instances, antithetical) presuppositions about *how* that text should be read.

And I do not want any of what I have said to be taken personally. I admire your passion to engage this postmodern Christianity. I think engagement is necessary and healthy. But I also believe any engagement must approach the table with the presupposition that the emergent church's presuppositions are dangerous and an affront to Christ and His gospel. We approach to converse. We approach in love. But we never give up the presuppositonal ground that Christ, in asmuch as He is the Incarnation of Truth is also Truth Transcendent (1 John 1:5). That *must* be on the table at all times... otherwise, the conversation is less than genuine.

loren said...

Hi Breuss,

I appreciate your thoughts, you are a realistic thinker, and I did appreciate your perspectives on Christ in your previous posting.

Maybe my perception of the emerging church is a little different from yours, based on the people I actually know who are a part of the movement. And maybe, to some extent, there's a regional distinction involved (the folks I know are in the south). But allow me to explain:

The emerging church is actually a very disjoint movement. Picture many strands of thread that run parallel to each other, but don't quite connect. Those 'threads' are the local pastors of house churches, the leadership at the grass roots level. Many of them have a background in a mainstream church, not too dissimilar from our own, and have become involved in the emerging church as an outreach to that culture. So in a way, they already form the living bridge we'd need. And this is where the potential may be found.

The problem is that a movement this disjoint produces a vacuum at a higher level, and others have risen to fill this vacuum. They have become the shuttle that weaves those strands together. They are the recognizable face. Their strength is often in their personalities and their grasp of the culture, and not necessarily in their grasp of doctrine. Still, their efforts have provide this disjoint movement with some fabric and cohesiveness, so to those grass roots leaders there is some value in this. Furthermore, those men understand their 'target audience' and they find this input useful.

So to some extent, the local leaders are 'proving all things and holding fast that which is good', and making clearer stands in their home church sermons -- which may reach 20-30 people at a time, so we don't often get to hear that part.

Thus, as I see, it, the problem is not so much in the woof, but in the weave, if you follow my analogy. The 'weave' has it's strengths, but also brings some weak threads to their fabric. But I think a useful discussion could be made with the grass roots leaders themselves, who are not as far from us, doctrinally, as we may think.

You are correct in saying that they would need to take a more definitive stand on what they believe. They will often say they don't completely agree with the leaders you've mentioned, but will not define their areas of disagreement. Well, they'll need to understand that if they're serious, they must bring that to the table.

In a strange way though, if we offered them a forum for discussing our differences in love, that would allow them to rise into the vacuum themselves. They could begin to weave a new fabric in the movement, and pick out some of the old threads. This could bring some of the reforms they need.

After my previous posting, I began to realize that creating a blog for this discussion would take a lot longer than a week, but I'm still willing to see about it. But some questions about the form of this discussion would naturally appear:

Who would participate in this blog? Under what terms would this discussion take place? What would be the agenda in introducing issues? Who writes the articles and opinions, etc? How are the issues resolved? I have some basic thoughts, but the participants would have to be allowed some input too.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to feel like we're hijacking Steve's blog. So Steve, may I ask for your thoughts on this please?

SJ Camp said...

To my fellow blogenators:

I wasn't trying to make a one-to-one parallel between post-modernism and the emergent--though the philosophical lines are crossed in those two camps nonetheless.

I was merely suggesting that the Christ-centered conversation needed today between believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel and those caught in postmodernity should focus on doctrinal truth. Jesus never commands us to "go into all the world and relate." We are to preach and live His gospel. I think sometimes that we are timid in "speaking the truth in love" while sipping some of Starbucks finest with those that don't know the Lord (a great place BTW to interact and share the gopsel with a myriad of postmoderns) and are sheepish in speaking to them in biblical and theological terms when talking about culture, news, faith, the nature of man, etc.

Hope this clarifies... I though Pink nailed it and that is why I blogged his quote.

Thanks for the meaningful "conversation" here... well done. FYI, the quintessential website for the emerging church is A great place to interact with EC minds and share with them from a reformed/biblical perspective.

Grace and peace,
Col. 1:9-14

Nobody@Nowhere said...

STEVE: Jesus never commands us to "go into all the world and relate." We are to preach and live His gospel...


No, Steve. That is Reformational revisionism. In the "Great Commission" Our Lord says we are to go and "make disciples." As the NT makes abundantly clear, that is a RELATIONAL activity (See Acts 2:42ff.) — something the Protestant Reformers (and their heirs) seem to have missed. (Along with the "Sola" that trumps all the others: LOVE ALONE — see John 13 and 1 John 4). Observe how Paul describes his "preaching":

"For we never came with words of flattery,  as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.  Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.  But we were gentle  among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.  For you know how, like a father with his children,  we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."

The Reformation culture was anything but "relational" — like the vast majority of Reformed and Conservative Evangelical churches today. In that sense, it is neither BIBLICAL — and should be done away with. What MacLaren (and others) rightly perceive is that Reformation-model of "church" was more a reaction to Rome than a return to the NT model of "gathering together" — most evident in their OVERemphasis upon preaching (as Francis Schaeffer also concluded) and their UNDERemphasis upon our "life together" (See Bonhoeffer). Reformed Baptists like Jon Zens have been saying this for YEARS. You simply won't find anything closely resembling the Reformers' truncated idea of "church/preaching et al." in the pages of the inspired texts.


It was a cultural accommodation.


You and Phil and James love to tear down "emerging" Christians for capitulating to Postmodern culture. But what about your own (obvious) capitulation to the culture of the Reformation?

Hey, I know, why not take the log out of your own eye — your addiction to Reformation culture — and then you will see clearly enough to help those who are "emerging"????? (See Matthew 7:1ff.)

With much love and warmth, and in propositions (roughly set forth) intended to be understood,


rob schläpfer

Nobody@Nowhere said...


ARTHUR PINK: What a tragic life! Pink was the epitome of what is wrong with the Reformation model:

he was a doctrinal whizz

but died alone in obscurity


He could not RELATE TO PEOPLE.

Everywhere he went he sowed division.

Arthur Pink is one of the saddest examples of actually LIVING the Christian life than you can ever read about . . .

SJ Camp said...

Dear Rob:

Thank you for your posts and the passion that you spoke with. When I said "...go ye into all the world and relate..." I wasn't talking about not understanding the culture we live in or not carrying on relational dialogue with those that don't know the Lord---far from it. I try to do that several times a week in the "neighborhood" the Lord has sovereignly placed me. I was referring to leaving out the gospel, sound doctrine, theology and faith in the conversation. My apology if I wasn't more clear. Thank you for helping me see that.

Secondly, I do thank the Lord for some things within the emergent church that are good and that we all need to learn more about:

1. Their burden for the lost (and I don't mean nominal Christians or Easter/Christmas Christians). But those that have nothing do to with Christianity at all.

2. The burden for genuine authentic faith--not plastic "go through the motions" Christianity. As Paul would call it, "an unhypocritical faith.." (cf, 1 Tim. 1:3-6).

3. The burden to not make faith one of political association or party identification. Or to see the church used as a PAC, lobbying group, or the worship/fellowship of God's people as a means to flex our evangelical muscle to influence politicians to adhere to our moral agenda in creating the veneer of rightness within society absent of the gospel.

4. The quest for real relationships in the community of believers that functions as a N.T. church (Acts 2:42-48). Not just a one hour a week Sunday-morning club.

5. And lastly, the desire to recover the historical roots within worship and to avoid slick comtemporary programs or imagery vacant of real meaning or Christian symbol.

But, there are problems within the emergent church as well that should be looked into and addressed:

1. OST - "open source theology";

2. a unity not-based on doctrine or truth; and the wholesale absence of biblical truth/doctrine to define the emergent church philosophy;

3. the imbalance of post-modernism defining the faith as opposed to the faith defining "pomo's";

4. Brian McLaren has many important doctrinal issues that shouldn't be ignored by you or anyone else within the emergent family of churches. (Personally, I think that Dan Kimball would be a better spokesperson at large for emergent philosophy than McLaren. Dan is orthodox from all that I can tell. IOW, he doesn't want to reinvent the faith; he wants to reclaim it--something for which I can stand with him.)

Those are some real concerns many of us have - to name just a few. But, it would be unfruitful for any one to discredit all emergent churches because they bear the name "emergent." Each fellowship or church body needs to be evaluated and examined on its own merits...

I've enjoyed this conversation of faith with you. And thank you for joining the discussion in COT blogland.

Confront the status-quo...and take no pat-answers for the hard, necessary questions.
Grace and peace to you,
2 Cor. 3:5

The Spokesman said...


Your quote by Pink is spot on! Pink was simply calling for a recovery of the gospel (soteriology) based on Scripture which indeed would lead to a recovery of the church (ecclesiology).

Postmodern Christians (aka "the emerging Church") can see that there is a problem - but so did Joseph Smith! The solution being offered by the emgergents is ecumenical, heretical, and perpetuating the problem and not solving it. Emergents have either forgotten or overlooked the biblical truth that false prophets are great bridge builders (highly relational) - "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:5-6).

Derek Joseph said...

Steve, thanks for your passion for the truth of the gospel, for its preaching, and for all of its difficult facets.

'nobody' is correct - relationships and unity are necessary in the building up of God's Kingdom - but that unity always has as its foundation in the NT doctrine - not necessarily 150 points of it, but at least - at LEAST - the gospel.

Steve, this may have been unintentional - but it sounds like the first two lines of your entry are an attack against Mark Driscoll. I know that you've disliked some things that he's said in the past, but to include him among people that don't faithfully preach the gospel is a mistake. I know this may have been unintentional. We, especially the ministers here, have said things we are ashamed of, including from the pulpit; whether for lack of precision, correct attitude, or clarity. Thank God that he forgives us because of Christ!